At present, US adults are advised to consume no more than 2,300mg of sodium each day, equivalent to about six grams or one teaspoon of salt. However, despite the well-documented health impacts of excessive salt consumption, Americans currently consume an average of about ten grams of salt each day – or two-thirds more than the government-recommended maximum.
Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has proposed a limit of 1,500mg of sodium per day, or less than four grams of salt, for those it claims are particularly at risk of salt-related illness – a group that brackets the majority of Americans. This group makes up 69.2 percent of the US population and includes blacks and everyone over the age of 40, as well as those who already have high blood pressure.
Health benefits for all
Director of the CDC’s division for heart disease and stroke prevention Darwin Labarthe said: “Reducing sodium intake can prevent or delay increases in blood pressure for everyone…People need to know their recommended daily sodium limit and take action to reduce sodium intake.”
The CDC claims that its study is the first to use data regarding those particularly at risk of sodium-related health problems when considering recommended limits. The 2,300mg limit was outlined in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, although the estimated 29 percent of Americans with high blood pressure are already advised to cut intake to a maximum of 1,500mg.
Challenge to industry
The health impacts of excessive salt consumption have been well-researched, including its contribution to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. With an estimated 80 percent of US sodium consumption coming from packaged foods, manufacturers have been under increasing pressure to cut salt content in their products. However, this presents challenges in terms of consumer acceptability, as well as in replicating the functionality of salt as a preservative or stabilizer.
Meanwhile, the American Heart Association (AHA) has voiced its support for the CDC proposal and said it is working with federal agencies including the CDC and the US Food and Drug Administration to develop strategies for industry to reduce sodium in packaged foods by 50 percent over the next ten years.
Chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee Linda Van Horn said: “The new CDC data adds to a growing body of scientific evidence that supports this recommendation – there are now a substantial number of scientific studies that show a direct relationship between salt intake and a rise in blood pressure. An upper limit of no more than 1,500 mg could significantly reduce the rate of high blood pressure in the United States.”